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Best beaches in Australia – our top 10 picks

12th March, 2019

Australia is 32 times bigger than the UK, with 16,000 miles of coastline touching the Pacific, Indian and Southern Oceans. There are hundreds of beaches in Australia, from dramatic rugged coves, to long stretches of idyllic white sandy paradises. But which ones rank top? The answer will always be subjective, but here’s what we feel are Australia’s best beaches.

1. Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays, Queensland

Boats moored along a stretch of Whitehaven Beach in Whitsunday

Claimed by Tourism Whitsundays to be the most photographed beach in Australia, Whitehaven is a beach for anyone with a penchant for unspoilt beauty. Devoid of development, it boasts a vast expanse of fine white sand, lapped by crystal clear waters – perfect for scuba diving and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.

2. Bell’s Beach, Victoria

Bell's Beach in Victoria

Famed for its surf competitions and its reference in the final seen of 90’s flick Point Break, Bell’s Beach is the opposite to Whitehaven. Its big swells and rocky clifftops make for some dramatic scenery and it’s a great place to watch the breaks and marvel at the surfers. Strong currents and rip tides make swimming here challenging.

3. Bondi Beach, Sydney, NSW

Bondi Beach in Sydney

Bondi is probably the most famous beach in Australia. Yes, it’s touristy, and unless visiting out of season, you’ll be hard pushed to find a day when it’s not busy, but it epitomises Australian outdoor life – people enjoying the sun and the surf, armed with picnics and games. It also has lifeguards and beach rescue all year round, which makes it safe to swim.

4. Manly Beach, Sydney, NSW

A sunny day at Manly Beach

Manly is located on the north side of Sydney Harbour. It got its name from Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788, who found it unsuitable for settlement because of its aggressive male behaviour. Nowadays, it’s a haven for surfers and those preferring somewhere a little less busy. It also boasts some incredible views of the harbour. It’s not the easiest of beaches to get to, requiring a ferry across the harbour, but it’s well worth the trip.

5. Airlie Beach, Queensland

Abell Point Marina at Airlie Beach

We are back at the Whitsundays again, this time with Airlie Beach - the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and a lively hub for activities, such as boating and water sports. It boasts a bustling restaurant and bar scene and a lagoon with a manmade swimming area, which makes cooling off much safer from the seasonal box jellyfish that frequent waters off Queensland.

6. Twelve Apostles Beach, Great Ocean Road, Victoria

The beautiful Twelve Apostles at sunset

A bit of a red herring this one as it’s less of a traditional beach and more of a natural splendour and tourist attraction. These huge shards of limestone are the result of years of erosion from the force of the Southern Ocean. They stand magnificently along the rugged coastline, along the Great Ocean Road and are a must have photo opportunity. There is a view point to get a good snap, but for a closer look, you can take a walk down to the beach via the sand dunes.

7. Trinity Beach, Cairns, Queensland

Pretty Trinity Beach in Cairns

Located at the edge of the rainforest, just north of Cairns, Trinity Beach is a tropical paradise. Set in a banana shaped cove, between two headlands and peppered with palm trees, it’s the perfect beach for relaxation and is a popular hang-out for locals. There is a stinger net in place during stinger season, to make it safe for sea swimming.

8. Scarborough Beach, Perth, WA

Stunning Scarborough Beach at sunset

Named after Scarborough in the UK, Scarborough is probably the most well-known beach in Perth and one of the only beaches here that is free from the shadows of the high-rise buildings. It’s a popular beach for year-round kitesurfing, windsurfing and traditional surfing and it has a plethora of shops and restaurants to explore. It’s located 8 miles north of Perth but has fantastic transport links, making it easy to get to.

9. Noosa Beach, Queensland

Rocky coves at Noosa Beach

Noosa is an upmarket beach resort on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. At the hub is a laid-back town with boutique shops and charming restaurants and cafes. Surrounding it is a series of waterways, lakes and beaches. The main beach – Noosa Beach – faces north, giving it protection from the Pacific tides. This makes for a popular place to relax, unwind and swim safely. It’s also great for water sports and fishing.

10. Byron Bay Beach, NSW

Byron Bay Lighthouse at sunrise

There is a handful of alluring beaches in the hippy resort of Byron Bay, but the main beach is the star attraction. With gentle breaks and warm white sand, it’s a popular place for families and friends to soak up the sun, surf and regular beach entertainment. At the southern tip of the beach lies Cape Byron State Conservation Park – a headland with a lighthouse and look out points, where you may be able to spot humpback whales.

Whatever floats your boat on the beach front, Australia has it all. Granted, you do have to keep safety in mind when swimming, due to dangers like strong currents and stingers, but if there’s one thing the Aussies do really well, it’s making sure their beaches are safe so that they can be enjoyed by all. And why not?

Tempted with a trip to Australia? Browse our popular holidays down under:

Australian Adventure

Australia and the Indian Pacific

Ultimate Australia

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.